In celebration of Libraries Week 2017 SRB chats with Trina Gavan and the staff of East Lothian Libraries about what makes their libraries tick.
Tell us a little bit about your library.
We have 12 branch libraries in East Lothian, and they are all very different. Most of them have been refurbished or built from new within the last 30 years or so, which makes the Portacabins a thing of the past, although the shopfront of Wallyford library indicates its original purpose. Prestonpans is a Carnegie library, originally built in 1905, and beautifully extended in 2007, a lovely combination of old and new. Several of our libraries share premises with customer services in community centres whereas North Berwick library is housed with the Coastal Communities Museum and in Haddington the John Gray Centre also comprises the Museum and Archive.
What makes your library stand out?
These comments from Avril in Gullane library could easily be applied to all of our libraries: “They are the hub of the community. We do so much more in the library other than issue books. Our library is a warm, friendly and inviting place. There is always something going on from our knitting group and book group to story time for preschool, book bug and coding club. We have one elderly gentleman who has come to the library every day since I started 28 years ago. He has no family and without the library would have nowhere else to go”.
Notable in Longniddry is the fact that the staff really, really love to dress up!
What one food/drink could your librarians not survive without?
Tea, coffee and chocolate. And wine gums.
Are we allowed to say a gin and tonic, or a glass of red wine? Once we get home of course!
What other library do you secretly admire?
- Got to be Orkney for consistently winning Twitter
- The new Carnegie Library in Fife is lovely
- The children’s space in Edinburgh Central
- We admire any library who can still deliver a good standard of customer service in this austere climate.
What is the most enjoyable event you’ve had in the library?
- The Ann Cleeves murder mysteries went down well everywhere
- Rebus 20 event with Highland Park whisky when we turned Longniddry Library into the Oxford bar.
- Who wouldn’t love Harry Potter events when we can play with spells, a sorting hat, wands, Diagon Alley, lotions and potions from Teachers Special Worms to slippery eel jelly! There was a vast array of weird concoctions and colours, which probably had at least 100 E numbers in them.
- Our superheroes bookbug event was great with the staff dressed as batman and superman; for comic relief the staff dressed up this time in tutus and giant hairbow and bright red wigs; Star Wars, obviously, did we say we love dressing up?
- Not exactly in the library, but we did host an author event with James Robertson, as we sailed around the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. He was reading from “The Fanatic” which featured the Bass Rock when it used to have a prison in the 1600s
- Are the sausages in the butchers tasty do you know?
- A gentleman reader who travelled a lot, once asked us for help in finding him a lady travelling companion.
- the reader who asked if we had a book which could help him tell the sex of a goldfish.
- Frequently there would be a tap on the window and a newspaper-wrapped parcel would be waved around in the air. That was the signal to open the window and take delivery of some fish for one of our readers sitting reading newspapers.
- Did we know of any social workers for cats?
Most rewarding moment?
A series of moments – following a child through their first sleeping (or screaming) Bookbug sessions, learning the songs and rhymes and telling you when you get it wrong, to their first P1 visit, joining the summer reading challenge and going off to high school then even may be coming back for work experience. The chance to watch children grow and be part of their reading journey is the most special part of being in a community library.
Every time someone says that they love coming to our library.
- Bobby – a golden retriever. He came to the library with his owner who was not too steady on his feet. Sadly Bobby is no longer with us but I have his picture in my office.
- The “library” cat!
- The young man who used to regularly bring in strawberry tarts for the staff – he’s now my husband!
Biggest librarian bug bear?
- Taking the cover off to protect the book!!
- We had a serial phantom ‘apple’ reader. Every so often we would find books with a sticker on the jacket the kind that are usually found on apples. We turned detective and tried our best to find out who it was but never did
- Mug imprints on cover of book!!
- The critics who write their own opinions throughout the book
In one sentence persuade someone who has never been in your library why they should go:
Come inside and see for yourself, it is no longer all about the sshhh!!! We have very cool stuff!